Everglades National Park Stories and Tips

The Anhinga Trail: Photographer's Dream

Great Egret Photo, Everglades National Park, Florida

Not far into Everglades National Park's southern entrance is a turnoff for the Royal Palm area. There are two great trails here. The first is the Gumbo Limbo trail, which takes you through a tropical hardwood forest. While still recovering from the devastating impact of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the trail is a great introduction to one of the Everglades upland habitats. The trees and plants here are very similar to what you'd find in the Caribbean: mahogany, strangler fig, tamarind, and of course, the trail's namesake, gumbo limbo. This tree is easy to recognize by its red, peeling bark, which reminds a lot of people of many of South Florida's sunburned visitors, and earns the tree the moniker "Tourist Tree."

The real attraction at Royal Palm, though, is the Anhinga Trail, named after the long-necked black bird that frequents this (and nearly every other) area of the Glades. Anhingas swim beneath the surface of the water as they hunt for fish. When they find one, they spear it with their long beak, then bring it to the surface, flip it into the air and swallow it head first! Watch for nests right next to the trail during the spring months.

This is also a good area to see alligators, turtles, snakes and a big variety of birds, all at very close range. The boardwalk goes right by all kinds of nesting areas, and getting great wildlife photographs here is pretty easy. In fact, many of the nation's top wildlife photographers will tell you the same thing. There's no need to go slogging through the slough to get good pictures, just visit the Anhinga Trail and snap happy (and keep your feet dry, too!).

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